RFS hoses down Talbingo fire fears

A water bombing helicopter picks up a new load from Jounama.

There’s little chance a fire that’s burned more than 70 hectares of bushland near Talbingo will threaten residents in the Snowy township in the coming days, a community meeting in the town was told this afternoon.

Riverina Highlands Rural Fire Service district manager Jon Gregory led a team of RFS officers, the police and a council representative who allayed community concerns at a meeting of about 50 Talbingo residents.

Residents were told that the behaviour of the fire, which started in the Kosciuszko National Park to the south of Talbingo on Thursday evening due to a lightning strike, was relatively benign.

The slow-moving nature of the fire front was due to a combination of factors, including seven millimetres of rain on Friday night; firefighting efforts on the ground and through aerial water bombing; and last month’s rainfall of more than 100mm in the high country of the Kosciuszko National Park, which meant the fuel load was not tinder dry.


RFS fire chief Jon Gregory said any comparisons between the current blazes in the park and the 2003 firestorm that devastated large tracts of KNP, and eventually swept into Canberra, were wide of the mark.

“A lot of people are comparing this incident to 2003, but believe me, in 2003 the weather conditions were quite a bit worse than we have now,” Mr Gregory said

“Up top (in the Kosciuszko National Park high country) it is still quite green and so the fire behaviour is quite slow.

“The situation isn’t as dire as it could be, because we had that rain come through in December.

“But we want to be proactive, so that we’re still not fighting this fire in another month or two months.”

The RFS hoped to winch-in 20-30 remote fire-fighting specialists via helicopter tomorrow to work with an increased aircraft water bombing operation.

There was also an option to create a fire-break by dropping fire retardant.

A third option, to carry out an extensive backburning operation to blacken the country in a pre-defined area, was the least preferred option.

“The last thing we want to do is introduce fire into the landscape,” RFS public liaison officer Bradley Stewart said.

“We want to reduce it.

“History tells us that a backburning operation in that area may breach containment somewhere.”


Mr Stewart also hosed down concerns the township could come under threat from an ember attack.

“There was talk about embers, and I don’t see it happening,” Mr Stewart said.

“We have a fire behaviour analyst in the Tumut office, I’m also a fire behaviour analyst, and we’re also talking to the Bureau of Meteorology about weather conditions. None of us see it (embers) happening.

“The wind and relative humidity isn’t there that would see a fire up and running and crowning.

“There’s very little chance of embers occurring, and very little chance, if any, of embers impacting this community.”

Residents had the added advantage of the township being at the base of a steep hill, which the fire would have to make its way down.

“Fire travels extremely slowly downhill,” Mr Gregory pointed out. “There’s little chance of the fire coming down over the top of Talbingo into the community. “We’re not really concerned at that at all.”

Residents were told the main impact on the community in coming days was likely to be smoke.

While temperatures would remain in the high 30s throughout next week, fire authorities weren’t expecting wind to be a major issue, with the direction of any wind likely to push the fire away from the township.

RFS Advice

Check and follow your Bush Fire Survival Plan. If you do not have a plan, decide what you will do if the situation changes. Leaving early is your safest option.

If you live in the area, monitor the conditions and follow the advice of firefighters.

f you are visiting or camping in the area, monitor the situation and know what you will do if you are threatened by fire.If affected by smoke, close windows and doors. Seek medical attention if your condition worsens.

Other Information

If your life is at risk, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.

Continue to stay up to date with the bush fire situation by checking http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au, listening to your local radio station or by calling the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.

Stay up to date with the Fires Near Me NSW smartphone app.

For information on road closures, check http://livetraffic.rta.nsw.gov.au. Roads may be closed without warning.